It's been a while since I did a major rankings update for our division-by-division top tens, but I went through and made some adjustments. As I've said before, these are not traditional rankings in the sense that you might stay where you are forever if you don't lose. These rankings -- like every other set in the world -- are subjective and I believe deserve to be revisited. Not to make it sound like serious business or anything, but spots should be earned, not just kept.
We'll start off with a big example of what I mean.
1. Juan Manuel Lopez (2)
2. Celestino Caballero (3)
3. Yuriorkis Gamboa (4)
4. Rafael Marquez (5)
5. Chris John (1)
6. Elio Rojas (7)
7. Steven Luevano (6)
8. Daniel Ponce de Leon (8)
9. Orlando Salido (9)
10. Cristobal Cruz (10)
Chris John drops from the top spot to number five because I just don't feel he deserves to be called the best featherweight in the world anymore. On April 11, I did a feature on the featherweight top ten, and kept John at the top spot, almost talking myself into why I was doing it. But my mind has changed. He just hasn't really earned it. He hasn't fought since last September, when he beat Rocky Juarez in a rematch. Since then there have been tentative dates set against weak opponents that haven't panned out, and pretty clear indications out of Indonesia that Chris John is not looking to fight any of the top guys. So why is he ranked No. 1? He stayed there for a good while because the 126-pound division just wasn't very good. Right now, it's one of the best divisions in boxing, and the top five stacks up well to any other top five you're going to find in the sport.
It also came down to the following four questions:
- Would John beat Juan Manuel Lopez? In my opinion, no.
- Would John beat Celestino Caballero? In my opinion, no.
- Would John beat Yuriorkis Gamboa? In my opinion, no.
- Would John beat Rafael Marquez? In my opinion, no.
Chris John is a very good boxer. But his ambition is lacking. Yuriorkis Gamboa hasn't fought the toughest opposition in the world, either, but fights against Rogers Mtagwa and the upcoming bout with Orlando Salido are on par with what Chris John has done from 2003 to present, with the exception of John's fight against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006. Rocky Juarez is a quality enough fighter, but really no higher-regarded last year than Salido is now. It may tip slightly in Juarez's favor, but that's just nitpicking. John has held his belt hostage for most of his reign fighting mediocre opponents. If he were showing any desire to fight a top featherweight, maybe I wouldn't drop him below the other four. But he's a month and a half away from being inactive for a year.
1. Sergio Martinez (1)
2. Paul Williams (2)
3. Kelly Pavlik (3)
4. Felix Sturm (4)
5. Dmitry Pirog (-)
6. Sebastian Sylvester (5)
7. David Lemieux (-)
8. Gennady Golovkin (8)
9. Matthew Macklin (10)
10. Darren Barker (9)
This is a division on the precipice of a major overhaul. I keep Paul Williams ranked here and not at 154 for the time being. It's a judgment call where to rank him, but he has to go somewhere.
The big roll-in, obviously, is Dmitry Pirog, who made a lot of fans on Saturday night. I'm frankly not convinced at this point that anyone from number six on down would beat Danny Jacobs (well, probably Lemieux, but I'll get to him in a moment), but Pirog crushed him in convincing fashion and looked like a real ring general. There has already been talk, apparently, about having Pirog face middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in October. We'll see.
Kelly Pavlik stays at number three on resume, mostly. Where his career goes from this point is really up in the air. It appears he'll stay at 160 instead of moving up to 168, but who knows who he'll be fighting? Top Rank likely will offer him a soft touch, somewhat in the post-Hopkins style of Marco Antonio Rubio, though Rubio was one of Pavlik's mandatories at the time. Felix Sturm will be getting back in action on September 4 against Giovanni Lorenzo, who's a borderline top ten sort of guy. Lorenzo can punch and Sturm will have been out of the ring for 14 months by the time they fight. An upset there would not shock me, though it would have to be a stoppage. Lorenzo will get zero favors on the cards against Sturm.
David Lemieux also enters the rankings at number seven. That might seem premature, but he is vicious, and I don't think there is anyone else at 160 with his power, and he has a great in-ring demeanor, too. He really does look like the complete package. Frankly I'd pick him to beat Sebastian Sylvester without a lot of trouble if they fought next. The next win Lemieux gets over a credible opponent could boost him over Sylvester. He's that impressive of a young fighter.
Gennady Golovkin is a legit fighter, but his upcoming bout is iffy at best. It's in Mexico against a Colombian named Milton Nunez, who has a nice looking knockout rate against total scrubs in Colombia. Expect Golovkin to likely crush him in short order, and the fact that the WBA sanctioned that as a vacant interim title fight is -- you guessed it! -- ridiculous.
Then you have Darren Barker, who didn't look great in his last fight, and Matthew Macklin, who last fought in December. Those two are set to meet on September 18 in what will essentially serve as a top ten eliminator for me.
A bunch of others could be here. 26-year-old Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam has talent, but his opposition has been soft. A good European-level fight would be great to see for him. I don't count out Danny Jacobs from joining this list by summer 2011. Veteran Roman Karmazin could be on this list, but I get the feeling his draw with Sebastian Sylvester, which was a close and competitive fight, was about all he had left. Peter Manfredo Jr. has been much better since getting back down to 160, but I still doubt his chances against really top-level foes. Lajuan Simon is still out there under the radar, and has won two straight. Sebastian Zbik dropped out of the top ten, because I'm just not a very big fan of him, to be honest. I think he would have some real problems with even Macklin and Barker, for instance, and would need some home cooking to beat either of them. Fernando Guerrero is a guy I really like, but am realistic about. He's going to have some problems with his height eventually. Craig McEwan is one of those OK prospects that might turn out to be a really good fighter, or might turn into an also-ran.
Many of the other divisions have also been updated, but I wanted to really look at 126 and 160 today. Again, the full rankings can be seen here.